Job cuts a mistake: union

Gary Kean
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Company ‘replacing one type of job with another type of job’

A worker at Corner Brook Pulp and Paper checks paper rolls in this May 2011 photo. Workers are bracing for more cuts while the machinists’ union says some cuts shouldn’t have been made at all. — Western Star file photo

Corner Brook Pulp and Paper is making a mistake says the president of the union that had nearly a quarter of its members told their jobs have been cut, or soon will be.

A dozen of the 50 members

from Local 1567 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers were called into the human resources office at the paper mill Wednesday. Eight  were told their jobs were gone, while the other four were told theirs would soon follow.

The jobs were among a total of 46 positions throughout the mill that were either cut, reduced to casual pool status or which are vacant and won’t be filled in the aftermath of meetings between mill unions and the company Wednesday.

Ross Edison, Local 1567’s president, said it is mind-boggling workers in his union have been deemed no longer necessary. He said his

fellow machinists, millwrights, mechanics and welders worked the equivalent of 1 1/2 years last year because there was so much to be done inside the mill.

“All our guys could work whatever overtime they wanted, but there wasn’t one word said about labour costs last year,” Edison said Thursday. “Not once did (the company) come down and tell us we were working too much overtime or that labour (costs were) running too high. The only reason we were in there to work is because they needed us. Now, all of a sudden, they don’t need us? It makes no sense really.”

The huge backlog of maintenance work has not gone away, Edison said. Even if the mill’s many moving parts were to work perfectly for the next while, Edison said there is still six months’ worth of work to be done.

More of that work is going to be done by contractors. One employee who got a pink slip Wednesday told The Western Star he saw a contractor doing his union job as he made his way to be told the bad news.

Edison said most of the contractors being hired are retired mill employees.

“If you got to trim the fat, you trim the fat, but that’s not what’s happening here,” he said. “What they’re doing is replacing one type of job with another type of job.”

Even more insulting is the news that salaried managers at the mill were recently given bonuses, he said.

“Can you tell me how providing a bonus is a cost-saving measure? You can’t,” said Edison. “There’s no explanation for it.”

The skilled workers the company is giving up on, said Edison, will be difficult to make up for. That, he said, will be a blow to the mill’s efforts to enhance the efficiency of its production.

“Some of these guys have 25 or 30 years in the mill and you will find no better workers in Canada,” he said. “How are you going to attract that kind of calibre employee back to this town and to this company? It won’t be done. I think the right decision for the mill is to keep these highly skilled tradesmen in place to keep the efficiency of the mill where it needs to be.”

The company, said Edison, never approached the union about its ideas on how it could cut costs or improve efficiency.

Many believe the pressure being applied on the unions is a tactic for outstanding labour contracts at the mill, which expired in May 2009. The machinists’ union has filed for conciliation as there have been no developments since it and the company exchanged proposals last summer.

The workforce reductions don’t even begin, added Edison, to address the looming problem of unfunded pension liabilities.

The cuts could also be a signal for help from government. Edison believes any government money should come with certain strings attached.

“There shouldn’t be a penney going to Kruger until they open up their books,” he said. “There should be jobs attached to any money given. They have to have some sort of guarantees.”

Kruger has promised to cut its labour costs, which it says are 40 per cent higher than the North American average. Edison said that does not represent a complete picture and it’s not fair to compare Corner Brook’s mill to others that do not have their own wood rooms, thermo-mechanical pulping processes and shipping staff.

“Break down all the costs from labour to power and mechanical costs and see how we compete,” he said. “I’ll put my guys against anybody.”

The Western Star

Organizations: International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, North American

Geographic location: Western Star, Canada, Corner Brook

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Recent comments

  • David
    February 09, 2012 - 17:00

    Ah, there anytihng they CAN'T fix?! It's such a shame that they don't ever put such vast knowledge, resources and money into a direct ownership stake in...well, anything. Ever. Always just satisfied to collect pay and complain. Weird, eh?

  • Job cuts are not personal
    February 05, 2012 - 15:39

    NAT said ..."As I see it, if a business owner needs to make cuts to keep the business profitable, that is what needs to be done. Who would ever run a enterprise to lose money. Its a sad, but true fact.".................................................. While you are right, cuts are also needs to make more profits. Certainly, no one would run an enterprise to lose money, but the other question is who would run an enterprise in one place when they could run the same operation in another place with different and make more profits? Again, the answer is sad, but the reality is that if one can operate one's business in an area where you pay less for labour, less for electricty, less taxes, then one has duty to shareholders to do so.

  • nat
    February 03, 2012 - 18:22

    As I see it, if a business owner needs to make cuts to keep the business profitable, that is what needs to be done. Who would ever run a enterprise to lose money. Its a sad, but true fact. Yes Corner Brook is going to take a hard hit, real estate wont sell for the prices they are asking now, and families are going to go out west. Thats a given. Alberta can give the profitable life Newfoundland won't. Not that Newfoundland cannot offer the wages and tax breaks like Alberta. They just will not invest in their people. Western Newfoundland does not have alot to offer any longer. There is no security in life so why stay there . You never know when someone will pull the rug out from under your feet. I feel all I ever want in life is security and a dollar in my back pockt if I need one.

    February 03, 2012 - 17:38

    I live in the real world where you only pay for the employees that you really need, where you only buy the groceries that you need to eat, and where you make financial decisions for the betterment of your family and loved ones. Workers are entitled to regulated safety standards and wages, but they are not entitled to a job. A job exists only when an employer has tasks that need to get done. If there is no task that needs to get done, then there is no need for the workers. It is simply common sense and has nothing to do with profit levels.

  • sealcove
    February 03, 2012 - 11:12

    What kind of person are you people are losing jobs , I guess that must be the(me world) i keep hearing about

    February 03, 2012 - 08:38

    Even if the cuts are a mistake, the company can then hire harm done. It makes perfect sense to cut operations/workers to the bone just to find out exaclty who/how many you need. Then, if needed, the company is free to add people....Workers are a dime a dozen, so there is really no risk for the company in making deep cuts. I say, the deeper the better....that way, they will only hire where they see demonstratable need.